I Hate These Kind of Plants

– Posted in: Hydrangeas, Native/Invasive, Weather

I hate the plants that can survive a cold winter but can’t take a hard spring frost. It is so aggravating! The problem is they emerge too early from dormancy for their own good. I’m talking about:

  • Newly emerged leaves of hydrangea brown and crunchy from frost damage

    April 29, 2006. Endless Summer hydrangea literally nipped in the bud.

    ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangea. It will get through a USDA Zone 4 winter but break into leaf long before the last spring frost. Which would be fine if those leaves could take a frost. But they can’t. I keep this shrub around for sentimental reasons. It reminds me of my grandma’s blue hydrangea–which was dead hardy for her on Long Island. I have learned if I bury it in leaves in the fall and leave them on until June, it will fine.
  • Asian Jack-in-the-pulpit drooping from cold damage

    One night at 27F does it in.

    Arisaema amurense. There are very few arisaemas hardy to USDA Zone 4. This arisaema, native to the Amur River valley, is supposed to be one of them, though other sites say Zone 5. Unfortunately it emerges from its winter dormancy in May, when we still have frost. Frost makes it lay down and die a premature death. It’s not pretty and it makes me want to cry. And that’s not pretty, either.
  • North American Jack-in-the-pulpit drooping from cold damage

    Native-born but can't deal with spring frost

    Arisaema triphyllum. I know it’s a native, you know it’s a native, but just try telling that to Jack. Our native Jack-in-the-pulpit can’t take the frost any better than his Asian cousin. How the heck did it survive all these years? Perhaps provenance makes a difference. This guy came from a relative living in the Hudson Valley near Albany. I really didn’t think our climates were that different, but maybe little things mean a lot.

Can’t Live With ‘Em or Without ‘Em

By now you have probably guessed that I don’t really hate these plants or I would have let them go to their eternal composted rest before now. Really I love them; I just hate their little sissy ways and how they make me work to keep them alive. I really thought it was going to get colder than 27F (-3C) last night or I would have made the effort to cover them. It might–might–have gotten them through. Another two degrees colder and nothing would have saved them, so I didn’t bother.

Why bother, indeed? I’m either hard-headed or soft-hearted. I keep telling myself each year that this year’s weather was an anomaly, that if I just help these plants pull through and build up strength, eventually they’ll be able to deal with a weird spring or two without my help. Yeah, right.

How about you? Are there plants in your garden that make you pull your hair out, but you just can’t part with?

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

What differentiates a bulb from a perennial plant is that the nourishment for the flower is stored within the bulb itself.…There is something miraculous about the way that a little grenade of dried up tissue can explode into a complete flower.

~Monty Don in The Complete Gardener pp. 142

Comments on this entry are closed.

Starting2luvz4 July 25, 2010, 12:45 pm

Just saw this although you posted this in May. My gardening buddies recommended planting my most marginally plants on the coldest, driest spots of my gardens. Minnesota routinely can overwinter their roses better than I can here in Iowa. They told me not to use those styrofoam cones since it promoted early growth. The objective is to keep the plant dormant for as long as possible. I will shovel snow over these plants to also keep them frozen.

Hope this tip helps you, I love hydrangeas :).

jodi (bloomingwriter) May 26, 2010, 9:11 am

It’s fascinating to see what exasperates other gardeners. I’m particularly intrigued with your native arisaema; mine are only just NOW emerging from the ground, and we’re past the risk of frost. Maybe because I have them in quite good shade under spruce trees?
What do I threaten to remove? Well, I’ve had the same discussion with my ‘Endless Summer’, although last year it took the hint and began flowering better, probably because we had a lot of moisture. It’s certainly more of a diva than my two lacecaps (which I prefer to the mopheads) or any of the paniculata types. Some years ago, I planted an indoor hydrangea outdoors, and while it died back to the roots every year, it always came back, just never flowered because it flowers on old wood. This year, I finally removed it. Then for good measure, I pulled out several roses that have been spleeny, used the winch on our four-wheeler to pull out an ugly yellow potentilla, and replanted with other shrubs that are hardier, have more seasons of interest, and so on. For perennials, I’ve decided to treat several as annuals, buy small, inexpensive versions of them, and enjoy them for a season. (Yarrow, gaillardia, perovskia; all of which are moody in my garden because they won’t take less-than-great winter drainage. )

Donalyn May 13, 2010, 9:54 pm

The last couple years, I would have said my Elderberry – Sambucus “Black Lace”. It was supposed to be this great shrub for areas where Japanese Maples won’t survive. Every year it dies all the way back to the ground and then just grows a foot tall or so. Till this spring – it didn’t die back last winter and it actually looks somewhat shrublike this spring – a puny shrub, but a shrub nonetheless. We’ll see if it persists from here and finally after 5 years, maybe it will look like something.

My “Endless Summer” hydrangea makes a pretty shrub, and though it doesn’t bloom much, it will stay where it is. I planted a PeeGee and a “Little Lamb” last year – I am pretty show they will both be fine.

Now daylilies – they often look like they are goners after a hard freeze, but I haven’t ever lost any yet. I have very well drained soil though and that can make all the difference.
.-= Donalyn´s last blog ..A Mother’s Day Mum =-.

VW May 11, 2010, 2:24 pm

We had a night of 26 degrees last week and numerous plants lost tender leaves. My endless summer hydrangeas still aren’t doing much – maybe that’s what bugs me about them, is how long they take to wake up. Their bare sticks are unattractive with all the pretty spring growth around them. I guess I haven’t had my garden long enough to know which plants have a propensity for being nipped back by late frosts. Ask in a few years and I’m sure I’ll have more complaints!
.-= VW´s last blog ..Conquering My Collecting Tendencies =-.

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings May 11, 2010, 2:02 pm

Like Patsy, it would have to be azaleas, and I’ve finally given them up for compost after suffering with them for years. Add to that most hydrangeas. The Endless Summer ones don’t bloom for me at all. I still have one in a container and if it doesn’t bloom this year, it is outta here.~~Dee

A.R.Wadoo May 11, 2010, 12:43 pm

Hydrangeas oh my goodness ,I thought i am the only unlucky one to loose hydrangeas to frost or disease, at least there is one like me to feel sorry for these beauties. I loose them every year, but plant afresh every year let us hope they live now on .

Nancy Bond May 11, 2010, 12:11 pm

I, personally, don’t have any flowers that I love to hate, but my parents threaten to remove their Nanking cherry bush every year. After its glorious flush of delicate pink blooms are gone, the leaves turn brown, shrivel, and die. (This is what the plant does.) They get a second leaf a few weeks after that. But every year my Dad threatens to dig “that damn thing out of there”, but I truly think they’d both miss those wonderful blooms. Many years after having been planted, it’s still there. 🙂
.-= Nancy Bond´s last blog ..DIRT! The Movie =-.

Colleen Vanderlinden May 11, 2010, 8:58 am

My ‘Nikko Blue’ hydrangea that my husband bought for me after our first baby was born makes me crazy every single year. It has plenty of nice green foliage right now, and brown, crispy buds. It’s bloomed for me exactly once in the last 5 years, but I’ll never get rid of it (hard-headed and soft-hearted, in my case…)

Christine B. May 11, 2010, 12:39 am

Hair tearing plants around here range from the mudane to the rare. Daffodils, can’t seem to keep them from drowning in our wet soils but wouldn’t want to see a spring without. I also seem to collect rare trees and kill them off with alacrity. I have to try a new one every year: we’ll see if the Magnolia s. ‘Royal Star’ made it through next week maybe.

Christine in Alaska

Mr. McGregor's Daughter May 10, 2010, 10:29 pm

The yellowwood, Cladrastis ketukea. It has bloomed once. Every other year, the buds get zapped by frost or freeze. This year it started leafing out too early & they got zapped. Then it sent out new leaves & it has buds. I doubt it will actually bloom this year, but you never know. It’s a nice tree, even if it doesn’t bloom.

Patsy Bell Hobson May 10, 2010, 10:28 pm

The first spring I lived here, there were yards filled with every color of azalea. I bought several. So far, my zone 6 garden has suffered a late freeze and the azaleas have always suffered. At least I have a few apples this year. Weee!
.-= Patsy Bell Hobson´s last blog ..Grow vegetables for soup =-.